The hard cell of cottaging
Getting the balance right between developing an excellent agency overall and motivating the individual teams within it to thrive has long been a bit of a headache for PR bosses.
There will always be one team doing better than another, one team that is growing quickly and another having a jelly quarter. But the point of this post is that in today’s PR world, agencies are probably better off putting more of their effort into developing really strong teams rather than fussing overly about the business overall and softer issues at a macro level – because a collection of brilliant teams will make the majority of that happen ‘automatically’.
This isn’t new news, but is front of mind for me at the moment after conversations with a group of agency bosses and individual flacks about the hard work being done to teach people social media skills, get people fighting harder for new business and protecting their clients, and being committed to the agency’s future rather than turning up to do a day job.
The thing from all of that which stands out is that if the agency is organised into ‘cells’ of team excellence, it will do better faster than one that isn’t, or one that spends too much time looking at the bigger picture.
It’s also front of mind for me today as Speed has bought consumer agency KTB PR to expand its consumer team, so has another great cell of expertise in its ranks. That team doesn’t want to be subsumed into the belly of Speed, it wants to thrive and further its own horizons by keeping doing what it’s doing, but on the proverbial bigger playing field.
PR is a bit of a cottage industry at heart, because most practitioners are content craftspeople first and foremost. Sometimes that can set our sights too low commercially, but a focus on developing cells around what we’re really good at should be at heart of agency development. It’s an observation that also justified me sticking the word cottaging in the headline.
Inter-team rivalries can boost agency success, providing they’re well-managed.
Teams can have a stronger sense of purpose than the agency at large, though it’s about achieving a balance of the two.
Knowledge and expertise are shared better amongst teams, providing they’re well-led.
Personal development opportunities tend to be better, providing cells can breed further cells.
Ask most PRs what they enjoyed most about their time at a former agency and they’ll reference their team first, and the agency second.
So there’s a lot to be said for cottaging.